Two Island movie theaters — Capawock in Vineyard Haven and the Strand in Oak Bluffs — won’t be opening for the summer season, Mark Snider, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation, told The Times.
“It’s very sad,” Snider said. “First of all, all theaters are required to be shut now and we have no idea when they will be allowed to reopen and when they do, they’ll have severely reduced capacities and that’s a problem.” He predicted “whopping losses” if the theaters opened and added it’s not a good time to seek contributions from donors.
Another factor is that Richard Paradise, who operated the theaters for the nonprofit, will be busy with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, Snider said.
“First and foremost it’s going to be too difficult for our organization to financially support three theaters being open,” Paradise said. “In a given year, we carry those theaters. The Strand and Capawock don’t make money. In 2019, we lost money. We had a bad year in terms of box office. Our organization can’t carry that burden.”
There’s also a question of what movies will be available because Hollywood has halted release of some films until the fall and is providing others on television, he said.
Paradise said he is optimistic that he’ll be able to open Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven this summer.
“I think that probably by July the state of Massachusetts will be at that point where we’ll be at Phase 3 and movie theaters will be able to open across the state with certain guidelines. These are predictable — reduced capacity, staggered seating, you skip a row, designated rows to sit, spread out,” he said. He also expects customers will have to wear masks. “We’ll ask people to buy tickets online and not line up to buy them in the theater. Social distancing will be mandated. We’ll be sanitizing between shows and have wipes for people who want to wipe their chairs. We’ll offer hand sanitizers. We’ll ask people to wash their hands and if you’re feeling ill, you don’t come see a movie.”
In the meantime, Paradise will keep providing content through his website. When he was forced to close in mid-March, Paradise pivoted to screening movies for his members showing world cinema and independent films to his customers through a virtual cinema.
Snider said he will work out with the Hall family, which owns the buildings, opening in 2021.